Barry Burnham began helping his father in his home construction business during high school and joined him upon graduation in the early 1980s.Several years later, he set up his own shop to concentrate on cabinetry and fine furniture during slow spells. And in the late 1990s, he added a portable saw mill to cut timber for others and his own projects. Burnham only partly jokes that he has passed 50 and is still trying to figure out how to make a living in housing’s boom-bust cycles. “Whatever it is, it has always been about wood and where I can best spend my time. There have been times when the mill is real busy and building isn’t. Other times it has been just the opposite. “I’m still trying to figure out the best mix. For now, I’ll stick with diversification,” says Barry. Detail photos from right to left: The cut list is a sawyer’s blue print, left, in this case beams for a small sheep barn; center, good boards start with a level setup, a sharp blade, and a blade square to the cutting bed, and the fence square with the blade. Small errors quickly compound during the dozen-plus slices of a 20” log.
The building trades are really iffy today. There are so many builders. It’s a saturated market so you have to be diversified to weather the ups and downs. That’s why I like running the mill. It’s easy. You take this raw material and turn it into valuable lumber. It’s just cool. But I don’t think there is enough demand year round to making a living at it.